It’s never fun enduring a long offseason while fans of other clubs get to enjoy a playoff run. This may sound a little spoiled to fans of teams like Edmonton and Calgary, but over the last decade, Rangers fans have been treated to a consistent expectation of contention. Since the Rangers have been eliminated, I have read a lot of great analysis about the importance of this offseason and potential directions for the club to go.
It’s going to be very difficult to handicap the exact moves from an analysis standpoint and hey, that’s up to you guys and gals anyway (shameless plug for the Off-season Plan Contest). I have kind of a conceptual thought-dump I wanted to share about this coming offseason and to see how you are felt about some of these things…
1.The Rangers have recently been an “offense by committee” kind of roster. Sure, there have been some outstanding individual seasons from Marian Gaborik and Rick Nash, but it always seems like they have a whole bunch of guys hovering between 35 and 65 points. Scoring depth has always been strength, but they have never had that truly dominant line that created serious matchup problems for opposing coaches. Question being, do you think this type of Top-9 construction can put a team consistently in true contention for The Cup?
2. This kind of dovetails from the previous section in that Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan have been something of 1A centers on this team. Obviously, neither one of them fits the mold of a Steven Stamkos, Anze Kopitar, Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Toews, “Number One Center”. The Rangers always seemed to be in that never ending pursuit of that guy, leaving many questionable decisions in their wake (Bobby Holik, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Brad Richards, etc.). Given their recent performance and future outlook, do you think that the Top-6 center position is competitive with Stepan and Brassard, or do you think a true “number one” center is necessary?
3. I read an interesting article from Sean McIndoe over at Sportsnet.ca the other day about GM’s taking a page out of the playbooks of this year’s final four. He had a noteworthy observation that I suppose I was aware of, but never consciously pointed out. Going back to probably the 2007 Anaheim Ducks, every Cup winner has had a Norris caliber defender on its roster. Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, Zdeno Chara, Scott Neidermayer, etc., have been instrumental in their team’s runs. Ryan McDonagh was always expected to take that step forward and become a perennial Norris candidate, but it hasn’t really materialized yet. Even with a re-tooling of the defense, do you think the Rangers can ultimately get where they want to be without one of those guys?
4. I keep hearing small, but vocal corners of the Rangers fan base calling for Henrik Lundqvist to be traded in order to re-coup assets and stop focusing organizational decisions around his window. The issue that I take with this approach, aside from the fact that Hank is one of the best goalies on the planet, is the potential for a representative return.
Historically, the trade returns for high-end goalies are absolutely putrid. Probably the best of the recent bunch has been the number nine overall pick for Cory Schneider. The problem is, Schneider was 27 at the time and entering his prime seasons. He has since blossomed into one of the best goalies in the NHL; making the number nine pick still a little light for his true talent.
The rest of the field: dumpster fire. Seriously. That huge return for Ryan Miller at the deadline a couple seasons ago? Two rentals (who walked a few months later), a late first round pick, a conditional third and the number seven prospect in a stacked farm system. They also threw in a useful bottom six guy in Steve Ott. That return work for you for Lundqvist? Me either.
5. From a systems perspective, do you feel that the front office can put the right personnel in place for AV to continue to run his high-tempo hybrid systems? Do you think he is capable of adjusting to a less mobile unit in 2016, especially if Keith Yandle is gone? At this point, we are past trying to determine if he is the right man for the job next season (the org obviously thinks he is), but do you think the right mix can be put on the ice to keep the team competitive under his systems and deployment?
Those are the big issues to me rattling around in my head on this Friday morning. What are your thoughts?